What You Can Expect to See While Snorkeling at Molokini Crater
Molokini is home to approximately 230 species of fish (some of which are found nowhere else) and a variety of marine life. On most days, the water is crystal clear with more than 150 feet visibility. Marine life you may encounter while snorkeling in the crater are: a large array of tropical fish, coral reefs, eels, monk seals, octopuses (tako), an occasional manta ray, and unique lava formations. Additionally, you can see Humpback whales during whale season (December through March).
DID YOU KNOW
Molokini does not have a sand beach. The cove slopes downward to approximately 100 feet before dropping off deep into the ocean floor. The bottom of the cove contains sand patches, coral, basalt rocks, and boulders.
What you can expect to see while snorkeling or Snuba diving in the crater: The Hawaii state fish humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa (humu for short), triggerfish, tangs, parrotfish, butterflyfish, trumpetfish, needlefish, wrasse, pufferfish, angelfish, clownfish, ,moorish idols, eels, octopuses, manta rays, and even whale sharks sometimes frequent these waters. In winter months, humpback whales have been known to enter the cove. During whale season you can hear and see whales during our daily tours.
Molokini is owned by the federal government and is a protected Hawaii State Seabird Sanctuary. Molokini Crater is home to two species of nesting birds: Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Bulwers Petrels. Shearwaters have a thin beak and feed on fish crustaceans. Bulwer’s Petrels spend most of their time at sea and are quite small, yet have a long wingspan and are known for breeding on the north Pacific Islands (Hawaii and China).
Molokini islet is the southern rim of an extinct volcanic crater that is located about 3 miles off of Maui’s south coast. The only way to access the crater is by boat. Molokini and the surrounding 77 acres are a Marine Life Conservation District and Bird Sanctuary, which was established in 1977.
The Marine Life Conservation Districts separated into two subzones; Subzone A and B. Subzone A includes the cove and ends at a line that extends from the end of the ridge that is submerged at Lalilali Point to Pahe‘e O Lono Point. Subzone B extends out 100 yards from Subzone A surrounding the islet.
DID YOU KNOW
The concave shape of Molokini protects divers and swimmers from waves and strong currents and allows us to see about 230 diverse species within the tropical sanctuary.
Molokini: A Unique Snorkel Experience
Molokini remains at the top of the list of “must see” destinations when on Maui. The snorkeling is some of the best in all of Hawaii and has been voted as a top reef snorkel site. The back side of the crater is considered to be one the 10 best dive spots in the world.
Located just a few miles off Maui’s rugged Makena coast, lies the alluring, sunken volcanic crater of Molokini. Only three sheltered volcanic calderas still exist, with Molokini being one of them. Here the crystal-clear tropical waters are home to an array of fish and other unique species of marine-life that all seek shelter inside this beautiful crater.
Due to the protective shelter the crater provides, snorkeling at Molokini is extremely safe. Our trusty crew is always available, both inside and outside the water, to assist and make sure you get the most out of your snorkel experience.
DID YOU KNOW
It is illegal to touch the crater, feed or harass the marine animals and to remove anything from Molokini’s waters. The Four Winds II believes in protecting the crater and we work hard to protect the sanctity of Molokini.
Although calm and pristine today, Molokini has had a very tumultuous past. Thousands of years ago, Molokini was quite different and began as a violent underwater, volcanic eruption. What you see today is actually the remains of a giant cinder cone that rose above the surface and erupted approximately 230,000 years ago. Hundreds of ancient cinder cones can be found all around Maui, but Molokini is unique and it rose from the deep ocean floor to reach above the water. Many of these cones never break the surface of the water and only erupt below the surface.
During World War II, the United States Navy decided to use Molokini for target practice because of its unique shape resembling a battleship. Thankfully this was only done temporarily during the war and the U.S. Navy stopped this practice. Fortunately, because of nature’s amazing ability to recover, and with the help of careful protection, conservation methods and laws, Molokini is once again alive with marine life and pristine beautiful water.
What causes these cones to occur?
When our islands were young, molten lava flowed beneath the surface of the ocean through porous tubes. These tubes trapped water within their rocky structure. When the flowing lava heated this water to a temperature in excess of 100 degrees Celsius, the water turned to steam and caused the earth to bulge and form a cone-like shape. Some of these cones actually exploded. Rock and cinder spewed into the sky and part of the cone’s walls would collapse. Along with the water erosion, from the ocean waves, this is what created the familiar crescent shape we know today as Molokini crater.
Did you know:
- Molokini is one of the words three remaining volcanic calderas in the world (the second one also in Hawaii of the coast of Kauai)
- Because Molokini is a partially submerged crated with steep cliff lines in the back and a gentle slope in the front it allows for clear water and some of the best snorkeling in the world.
- The island is a protected nesting area for two distinct species of seabirds.
- Recent archaeological evidence shows that the ancient Hawaiians ventured out to Molokini hundreds of years ago to fish. It is also believed that Hawaiians may have harvested seabirds, eggs and feathers.
- The exact location of Molokini can be located using the GPS coordinates of 20.632617, -156.495958.
The Four Winds II is proud to assist in conservation and protection of the coral reefs surrounding Maui, Hawaii. We strive to help educate everyone we take snorkeling. We encourage guests to use Reef Safe Sunscreen (also offered onboard all our vessels) and ask you to not touch marine life as it can be damaging to the fragile coral and ecosystem.
Molokini Crater Fun Facts:
- Molokini is world renowned for its exceptional water clarity with visibility up to 150 feet.
- The volcanic crater formed from an eruption that occurred about 230,000 years ago.
- Molokini is home to about 250 types of marine species.
- There are 38 diverse types of hard coral species inside Molokini Crater.
- The island is home to at least 2 distinct species of nesting seabirds.
- Molokini is a Marine Life Conservation District and the island is a Hawaii State Seabird Sanctuary.
- Molokini’s literal translation means “many ties”.